College Basketball's 13 Most Important Transfers and Where They'll Land
Although most of the recruiting and NBA draft-related puzzle pieces are in place for college-basketball rosters around the country, one major factor is still shaking up depth charts: player transfers. In one of the most action-packed offseasons in recent memory, a large supply of high-achieving players is joining the already appreciable list of starters who left their teams during the 2011-12 season.
One of the biggest names who's heading to a new address is UConn power forward Alex Oriakhi. Just over a year removed from winning a national title, Oriakhi is leaving a Huskies team banned (by way of academic sanctions) from the 2013 postseason and will instead shore up one of the country's shakiest frontcourts at Missouri.
Read on for a closer look at Oriakhi and a dozen more productive players who will be wearing different uniforms the next time they step on a collegiate court—along with some thoughts on what those uniforms might be, for the players who haven’t yet decided.
13. Dundrecous Nelson
The 5'11" Dundrecous Nelson wasn’t the most versatile player last season, but he did two things very well for Ole Miss: score (11.6 points a game) and steal (1.4 per contest).
Unfortunately, he also managed to fail multiple drug tests in his time in Oxford, a mistake that resulted in him being booted from the roster in January.
Obviously, Nelson comes with some risk attached, but if he can stay in line off the court, he’ll be a huge on-court asset to lowly Jackson State, now that his hometown team is rolling the dice and accepting him as a transfer.
Once he becomes eligible, he’ll instantly become the best player in an offense that averaged all of 56 points a game while playing in the single-worst conference in the nation last season.
12. Glen Rice Jr.
For all that he was dismissed from Georgia Tech over, including an assortment of disciplinary and legal issues, Glen Rice Jr. has shown plenty of promise on the court.
The son of the former Hornets All-Star led the Yellow Jackets in scoring, rebounding and steals, not to mention ranking second in assists.
Although the versatile Rice (a 6’5” swingman) could theoretically be a valuable addition to his dad’s alma mater at Michigan, it’s hard to see coach John Beilein taking a chance on an obvious discipline risk when he already has plenty of perimeter talent.
Instead, look for Rice to drop down to a much smaller program—perhaps somewhere else in his home state—along the lines of a Georgia Southern or Samford.
11. Keala King
Obviously, considering Keala King as an impact player is contingent upon the assumption that he’ll have his head on straight at his new home.
King was thrown off the Arizona State team midseason for what coach Herb Sendek called “unacceptable conduct,” but he’d stepped up on the court last season, with 13.7 points a game in the few contests he did play.
King—a streaky shooter who hit 8-for-10 against Wake Forest last November—is headed to Long Beach State, where the 49ers are in a rebuilding mode after losing seven seniors.
Once King becomes eligible for coach Dan Monson, his 6’4” frame and scorer’s mentality will add a welcome option to what’s likely to be a thin offense.
10. Nurideen Lindsey
One of the most anticipated juco transfers of last season, Nurideen Lindsey looked to be living up to his billing at St. John’s.
However, after just nine games—in which the 6’3” combo guard averaged 12.4 points, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals a night—Lindsey decided to leave the Red Storm, in part because the coach who’d attracted him to the program (Steve Lavin) was out of commission indefinitely following prostate cancer surgery.
Lindsey isn’t quite moving back home to Philadelphia, but he’ll be a lot closer in the New Jersey suburbs at nearby Rider.
Broncs PG Jonathon Thompson will be a senior, but Lindsey has a very real chance to beat out either Thompson or junior SG Anthony Myles to earn an immediate starting job when he becomes eligible in January.
9. Julysses Nobles
Unsurprisingly, Mike Anderson’s arrival at Arkansas made Julysses Noble’s defensive prowess even more valuable, as the junior guard averaged a career-best 1.5 steals a night.
Unfortunately, Anderson’s three-point-heavy offense didn’t fit Noble’s game nearly so well, as the 6'1" guard nearly doubled his three-point attempts to 121, but saw his scoring stay pretty much the same (8.7 points a night, up from 8.4 as a sophomore).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Nobles is looking for another school at which to play his final collegiate season.
He’s given little indication of where he might be headed, but one intriguing (if entirely speculative) option might be Southern Miss, which would be close to home for the Jackson, Miss. native and which has the makings of a program going in the right direction following a 25-9 season.
8. Josiah Turner
Entering last season, the two most-hyped freshmen in the Pac-12 were Josiah Turner and Tony Wroten Jr.
Although Wroten is NBA-bound after a strong freshman showing at Washington, Turner struggled with suspensions and ineffectiveness (6.8 points and a disappointing 2.4 assists per game) and has decided to leave Arizona for a more favorable situation.
At least one recent report has Turner looking at St. John’s as a possible landing spot, which would make a lot of sense.
New York City will give him a built-in spotlight if he manages to turn his career around, and point guard is a position where the Red Storm aren’t exactly stocked for the near future.
7. Trent Lockett
At 6’4”, Trent Lockett was Arizona State’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer (13 points per game) last season. However, the senior-to-be is looking to transfer, partly to be closer to his ailing mother.
Contrary to some earlier reports, the Minnesota native won’t be joining the Golden Gophers, who have no scholarships available.
Instead, he’s reportedly choosing among Marquette, Gonzaga and transfer-filled Iowa State, with the latter being a possible favorite on geographical grounds, as well as a team that could use another serious offensive weapon.
6. Evan Smotrycz
Evan Smotrycz established himself as a leader in Michigan’s shaky frontcourt last season, averaging 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds a game.
That said, playing time is about to get very tight in Ann Arbor, with Jon Horford back from injury and stud freshman Mitch McGary arriving, so it’s hard to argue with Smotrycz’s decision to look elsewhere for his next opportunity.
Smotrycz, a junior-to-be after sitting out next season as a transfer, will be joining Mark Turgeon’s improving roster at Maryland.
Even assuming that massive Alex Len (who would be a junior in 2013-14) is still around, Smotrycz shouldn’t have any trouble fitting into the Terps' frontcourt, considering that Len is entirely a low-post option and Smotrycz’s forte is his face-up jump shooting.
5. Khem Birch
One of the stranger stories of the early 2011-12 season was the saga of ex-Pitt freshman Khem Birch.
The 6’9” PF seemed like a great fit for Jamie Dixon’s defensive philosophy, what with his 1.9 blocks per game, and Dixon started him in six of the 10 games he played (where he also posted 4.4 points and 5.0 rebounds a night). However, Birch decided in November that he was done with the Panthers’ program.
The Montreal native will be heading even further away from home, as he’s joining UNLV’s roster starting in January next season.
He’ll be the best shot-blocker on the roster, although his playing time may be limited, unless coach Dave Rice wants to move either Birch or incumbent PF and rebounding machine Mike Moser to center.
4. T.J. McConnell
Over the last two years, PG T.J. McConnell has been one of the most dangerous defensive players in the country, averaging 2.8 steals per game—in the Top 4 nationally both seasons—while also contributing five assists a night on the other end.
Despite McConnell’s best efforts, though, his Duquesne teams have limped to a combined 35-28 record and one trip to the CBI in those seasons.
In the interest of adding some wins to his outstanding performance, McConnell is transferring to Arizona.
The Wildcats are bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in the country, and even if some of those freshman standouts turn out to be one-and-done, Arizona is still going to be a very tough team to beat when McConnell becomes eligible in the fall of 2013.
3. Rodney Hood
Although much of Mississippi State’s early-season success was built on upperclassmen such as Arnett Moultrie and Dee Bost, freshman standout Rodney Hood offered hope for the future in Starkville.
The 6’8” SF averaged 10.3 points and 4.7 boards a night while hitting .364 from long range, but after a tumultuous season, he decided his future isn’t with the Bulldogs.
Hood’s length and agility have several top teams courting him, with Ohio State and Duke apparently among the frontrunners.
Hood could easily play a similar role in Columbus to the one Deshaun Thomas filled last season, so with Thomas likely gone after this year, Hood would make a great addition when he becomes eligible in 2013-14.
2. Alex Oriahki
One of the biggest disappointments of UConn’s roller-coaster 2011-12 season was the play of PF Alex Oriakhi.
The 6’9”, 240 lb. junior had seemed poised for a breakout year after playing a key role with the 2011 national champs, but Andre Drummond’s arrival at center torpedoed Oriakhi’s stats, which dropped to 6.7 points and 4.8 rebounds a night (down from 9.6 and 8.7, respectively).
With UConn banned from the 2013 postseason for academic problems, Oriakhi is eligible to play immediately for another program, and he’s headed to a team in dire need of his services.
Oriakhi will be joining a Missouri squad that’s losing seven seniors from last year’s 10-man roster—not to mention one that was upset by 15th-seeded Norfolk State, thanks to a desperate lack of high-end post players.
1. Mark Lyons
Even with the 2011-12 season long over, the fallout from the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl continues.
Mark Lyons, the Musketeers’ starting shooting guard and one of many players suspended for his role in the fight (if only for two games), is leaving Xavier after scoring 15.5 points per game last season.
Lyons’ academic situation works in his favor, as it’s possible he could finish his degree this spring and enroll in a graduate program, thereby becoming eligible to play next season.
He’s reportedly looking at Kansas, Kentucky and Arizona, but considering that 6’1” shooting guards aren’t exactly John Calipari’s favorite option, Arizona (with a mammoth front line arriving in next year’s freshman class) seems like the most favorable choice.